Looks Can Be Deceiving
By Karen E. Butler
Vice President of Communications
To look at him, you would never guess he’s in the fight of his life. Young, attractive, fit and very successful, Peter Rusconi hardly fits the typical description of a man living with chronic illness. This six-foot tall blonde looks more like a GQ model than the latest poster child in the fight against multiple sclerosis (MS).
Rusconi, 47, a native of Tolland, Conn., is a natural-born competitor. His passion for athletics led him over the past 11 years to open several fitness and weight loss facilities. He currently owns and operates four Cardio Express gyms, located in Vernon, Manchester, Southington and Wethersfield.
In 1998, Rusconi began to experience various health problems, including double vision, fatigue, and numbness and tingling in his extremities. The symptoms seemed to come and go without warning. After a visit to a neurologist in 2004, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is a potentially debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system. Symptoms can range from numbness in the limbs to, in some severe cases, total paralysis. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted, and there is no cure.
“When I was first diagnosed, I went into a state of denial, depression you name it,” shares Rusconi. “I was worried about how MS would impact my wife, my kids, and my business. The truth is, we’re all thrown obstacles in life it’s how you adjust and handle them that make the difference. I knew I had to move forward with a positive attitude, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Although Rusconi has few visible effects, his MS presents a challenge daily. He wrestles with overwhelming fatigue, intermittent vision problems and an incapacitating sensitivity to heat all of which, at times, affect his ability to participate in marathons and other physically demanding activities as he did in the past. However, according to Rusconi, MS has also prompted him to appreciate life and the opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.
“My MS diagnosis has really put things in perspective for me,” says Rusconi. “It has shown me that I need to be more proactive and do something good with my life something that will help to benefit others.”
Rusconi, a National MS Society, Greater Connecticut Chapter MS Ambassador, was named the official spokesperson for the 2006 Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour and is again serving in the same capacity for the 2007 tour. He helps the chapter in its efforts to raise awareness and educate communities statewide on the effects of multiple sclerosis and the need to find a cure. He and his staff are featured on NextMedia billboards promoting the Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour. Rusconi is also featured on a KISS 95.7 FM event public service announcement (PSA) and a WTNH News Channel 8 event PSA.
Rusconi is also committed to raising funds, captaining an official Cardio Express bike team, consisting of training staff, clients and friends who, together, ride in Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour in September. Last year, Rusconi’s team raised more than $17,000, making it the event’s top fundraiser.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents, like Rusconi, are battling the effects of MS. Funds raised through chapter events, such as the Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour, ensure ongoing scientific research to find a cure and the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to Connecticut families affected by the disease.
The 2007 Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour starts and finishes at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., with an overnight stay at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, Conn. Cyclists can opt from 25-, 50-, and 75-mile routes each day. Pre-registration is currently available online at http://www.ctfightsms.org/. For more information, please call Amanda Barry, Development Coordinator, at 860.714.2300, ext. 246. For more information on MS, its effects and programs and services offered by the chapter to those battling MS, please e-mail programs@ctfightsMS.org or call 860.714.2300, ext. 238.
CUTLINE: At a June 2006 photo shoot, commercial photographer Al Ferreira provides guidance to Cardio Express trainers and onetime models Melissa Mosher, Shannon Cooper and Derek Dion. The group appear, along with Cardio Express owner Peter Rusconi, on billboards, posters and television PSA raising awareness about multiple sclerosis (MS) and promoting the Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour to be held in September.
CUTLINE: You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Peter Rusconi, owner and operator of Cardio Express gyms was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004. Today, he is working with the National MS Society, Greater Connecticut Chapter to raise awareness and serve as the official spokesperson for the Mohegan Sun MS Bike Tour.